The seven days of jallikattu protests

A simmering resentment

As I write this, the jallikattu protest has entered its fourth day. Social media is congratulating itself and the citizens. People power and youth power are phrases being strewn about. Heritage, culture, judicial interference, North Indian chauvinism, Tamil pride, native cattle breeds — all these have been invoked. There are other strands — the protest is peaceful, beaches are clean, volunteers regulate traffic and distribute food, the students are emotional, the women are safe, the sentiments are beautiful…

It is hard to sort out the jumbled threads of this unfolding narrative and make sense of the emerging tapestry.

First, look at the protest qua protest. That it has morphed into a fantastic, democratic, peaceful mass movement is clear. The young are driving it, with energy and sentiment, just as they did the Nirbhaya protest.

The protest is so beautiful in fact that it is hard to accept or even see that perhaps what is being fought for is not as beautiful. Mixing up the mechanics of the protest with the underlying cause makes it difficult to understand the multiple motivations driving it.

If we tease out the anger alone, we still don’t find a single thread — it’s all muddled fury. One stream is directed at brash, new-age animal lovers like PETA. Second, the Supreme Court and North India and the Centre are all easily conflated to create one big, bad Hindi-speaking villain who is against all things Tamil. Another note is about agriculturists and Tamil culture and preserving native cattle breeds. It all adds up to a simmering, amorphous resentment, for which the jallikattu ban was the tinderbox.

But the Supreme Court ban came in 2014. Why are we angry now? If we find out why, we might see that this is perhaps not as spontaneous and apolitical as we are desperately trying to believe.

One message, though, comes through loud and clear. As a country, we have absolutely no respect for the rule of law. We are demanding that the Supreme Court judgement and a sub-judice appeal be subverted by some instant, quick-fix order.

Karnataka defies the Supreme Court, the BCCI pushes its luck, lawyers throw stones in court and noble protesters flout the national anthem ruling. Civil disobedience has never been misused with so much abandon, with so little judgement.

Where is all this energy when a young man in Tamil Nadu is slain in public for marrying a girl outside his caste? When Dalit villages are burnt down? When there are callous, man-made floods?

I think it’s missing then because those causes aren’t important enough.

Honour killing and untouchability might be legally wrong, but socially we think they are right. We believe in caste and gender inequalities and religious beliefs and customs much more than we do in the law.

Thus, even though driving bulls into a frenzy of pain and fear and making them run amok is obviously not the humane way to preserve either tradition or cattle breeds, we are fine with anointing it as the epitome of Tamil-ness.

I don’t think the bull wants its species to be protected like this, but unfortunately it cannot speak for itself.

Civilisation means speaking for the bull.

Civilisation is not just candlelight marches and knowing our rights. It is first and essentially about accepting that all living creatures, human and animal, deserve humanity. That is why Abu Ghraib and Apartheid and elephant poaching and dogfights are deemed deeply, ethically, inherently wrong.

As meat-eaters sitting on top of the food chain, we breed and slaughter cattle for food. The reason why we have laws even for the humane transportation of cattle headed to the abattoir is because we are expected to behave like civilised beings up until the very last minute. It is because we would like to believe that humanity is the quality that sets us apart and makes us deserving of the high seat at Nature’s table. That and respect for the rule of law.

Somewhere, in the romance and excitement of protest, we have lost sight of that.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 10:09:35 AM |

In This Package
The end of a protest
The sea of enthusiastic protesters on the Marina.
Anatomy of a protest
Centre says it is monitoring situation in Tamil Nadu
Chennai streets turn a battleground
Pro-jallikattu protests in Coimbatore end with agitation, violence
WhatsApp message from Ukraine triggered the Tamukkam protest
Train services through Madurai junction resume
Rail blockade earned wrath of people: Chamber
Protest for jallikattu at Tamukkam ends
Jallikattu protests end on peaceful note
Public transport in Chennai grinds to a halt
Violence forces schools, colleges close early
Stir at Alanganallur ends with violence
Violence breaks out in Alanganallur after eviction of protesters
Jallikattu protesters firm on permanent solution
Supporters of Jallikattu stage a demonstration with National Flags outside of Tamukkam grounds in connection with Jallikattu issue in Madurai on Monday.
Policeman on duty killed by bull at jallikattu in village of Virudhunagar district; Assembly passes Bill
Indications were clear that event couldn’t be held at Alanganallur
Protesters put up stiff resistance in Coimbatore
A movement to reclaim Tamil pride
Software companies in Mysuru join pro-jallikattu protest
Rajnath assures action on promulgation of jallikattu ordinance
List of cancelled and diverted train services
SC agrees to Centre’s plea to delay Jallikattu verdict
Tamil Nadu to take ordinance route for conducting Jallikattu
Political parties support bandh call
Seven students faint
Lorries to stay off roads
Hotels, shops to down shutters
Residents stage agitations
Apolitical groups extend solidarity as protest enters third day
‘Youths’ protest will script resounding victory’
Women show up in large numbers at protest
A show of strength and solidarity
Tamil Nadu to shut down today
A.R. Rahman and Viswanathan Anand.
Celebrities lend star power
Ramadoss marches towards PM’s residence, detained
Sasikala’s claims are misleading, says PETA
TNAU Management Board member resigns
‘From sport, jallikattu has transformed into cultural identity’
Protesters continue to throng the Marina beach promenade where thousands are streaming in to protest the ban on jallikattu. Families with children in tow were a sight on the waterfront on Thusday night.
For Centre and T.N., the options are tricky but worth a try
Alanganallur unmoved by CM’s Delhi visit
Lawyers’ fora call for court boycott
Centre is anti-Tamil: Opposition
PIL against policeexcess dismissed
Tamil Nadu to shut down today
All traders in Madurai to down shutters today
Southern Railway cancels trains
Students’ protest attracts more crowd at Tamukkam
Traffic thrown out of gear for second day in Chennai
Techies protesting in between shifts, after work
Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi
TN can enact law to treat jallikattu as traditional sport: Rohatgi
As jallikattu protests snowball, TN to shut down
Celebrities welcome, till they grab the mike
Naam Tamilar Katchi cadre climb up mobile tower
Thousands of passengers stranded as trains stop at Dindigul
Jallikattu protesters get more backing
Jallikattu ban: Students force train to a halt in Madurai
Students’ protests attract more crowds
‘Protest will not end till a bull runs on to the ring’
Jallikattu: MHA awaits reply from Environment Ministry
Cannot direct Centre, TN to frame special law on jallikattu: HC
Govt would reach decision on jallikattu by weekend: Dave
You are reading
A simmering resentment
The bull is trending
When two eras overlap
Jallikattu protest: Changes in train timings
More people throng pro-jallikattu protest venue
Jallikattu protests
The limits to popular sentiment
Jallikattu: protests continue in Kancheepuram
Protest rocks Tiruchi, Thanjavur districts
Closure of college: Students hold talk with management
Ban PETA, say protesters
Traffic hit on many roads
College students join protest for jallikattu in Vellore
Protests continue in Tiruvannamalai
Students show solidarity with jallikattu supporters
Thousands gather at Tamukkam demanding jallikattu
Seeman begins separate protest
Protest for ‘jallikattu’ gains greater momentum
Protest on Marina brings traffic to a standstill
Stir intensifies at Alanganallur
Protests for jallikattu spread far and wide
Next Story